In this week's list of 10 players we can't wait to see in the NHL one day, we profile Brendan Perlini of the OHL's Niagara IceDogs.
A Hot List road trip took me to Niagara last week to see the IceDogs host Mississauga and the hosts were all over the Steelheads, winning an easy one 4-1. Meanwhile, the Quebec League’s Moncton Wildcats got a lot more dangerous thanks to the addition of Ivan Barbashev’s buddy from back home, while there’s a new goalie to know over in Sweden. Here’s a look around the world of prospects and some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Brendan Perlini, LW – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
One of the highest-scoring draft prospects in the Ontario League, Perlini has been making magic on a line with Toronto Maple Leafs pick Carter Verhaeghe. Ironically, that’s the franchise his father, Fred Perlini, had a couple cups of coffee with back in the early 1980s before becoming a star in Great Britain. So that’s where Brendan spent his winters until age 11, falling in love with both Manchester United soccer and the world of puck.
“Obviously it’s not the biggest hockey market,” Perlini said. “But growing up there gave me an international perspective to my game, playing in Sweden, Finland and Russia. It definitely contributed to my play today.”
Unorthodox, sure. But very effective. Perlini has 28 goals and 61 points through 46 games and has really come along after getting traded to Niagara from Barrie midway through last season.
“My skill sets are the biggest part of my game: skating, stickhandling and shooting,” he said. “I’m a big guy out there and I bring a lot of speed. I tend to create a lot of plays and I try to make my linemates better.”
Already 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Perlini will only be getting stronger and that’s a scary thought given his other attributes. Right now the IceDogs are holding on to one of the East’s final playoff spots, but next year will see a young lineup hit a sweet spot that will ramp up expectations when the team moves into a brand new home arena.
“It’s going to be good,” Perlini said. “We’re developing, our line is clicking pretty well and we’re only getting better for the future.”
A future that is looking very bright, indeed. Draft eligible in 2014.
Vladimir Tkachev, LW – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
You can forgive Tkachev for going scoreless on Sunday; it was his third game in four days since arriving in Canada to play for the Wildcats. In his first two appearances, the gifted offensive talent was all over the scoreboard with four points in his debut and another helper the next night. Draft eligible in 2014.
Linus Soderstrom, G – Djurgarden (Swe.)
Only one goalie in Sweden’s junior North circuit has faced more shots than Soderstrom, who is playing for a middling Djurgarden squad and standing tall. Big, quick and calm, Soderstrom doesn’t overplay in net and has a .915 save percentage, good for third overall in the North. Draft eligible in 2014.
Kasperi Kapanen, RW – KalPa Kuopio (Fin.)
It’s practically universal knowledge in the scouting world that Kapanen’s team is hurting him this year. KalPa is near the basement of Finland’s top league and the youngster is taking on a lot of pressure. A quick competitor with a nose for the net, Kapanen has points in two of KalPa’s past three games and the squad was shut out in the other contest. Draft eligible in 2014.
Aaron Haydon, D – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Haydon’s season literally got off on the wrong foot when he broke his while stepping out of a golf cart at a team function, but the big defender has moved on. Haydon has a great edginess to his game and some decent puck skills. The blueliner moves well and mans Niagara’s top penalty killing unit. Draft eligible in 2014.
Nikita Scherbak, RW – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Scherbak came out of nowhere this season and is still the star on a suffering Blades team. And even though Saskatoon shipped out four of its top six scorers in the past month, the Russian continues to blaze. Highly intelligent on the ice, Scherbak has great hockey sense and is riding a four-game point streak. Draft eligible in 2014.
Ryan Dzingel, C – Ohio State Buckeyes (NCAA Div. I)
A gifted operator who also plays a responsible game, Dzingel has been a driver for the Buckeyes this season. The pivot leads the conference with 14 goals and 30 points in 22 games and four of his markers have been game-winners – also best in the Big 10. Drafted 204th overall by Ottawa in 2011.
Nick Wolff, D – Eagan Wildcats (Minn. HS)
Scouts have a very definitive book on Wolff’s playing style: Rough and tumble. Coming in at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, the Minnesota high schooler is a brawny blueliner in a circuit historically known for finesse defensemen such as Jake Gardiner and Aaron Ness. Having said that, Wolff does have 17 points through 18 games for the Wildcats. Draft eligible in 2014.
Marcus Pettersson, D – Skelleftea (Swe.)
One scout said Pettersson has the most upside of any European in the draft. A big kid who covers a lot of ground, Pettersson has an edge to his game and can move the puck pretty decently. He has a ways to go, but he’s already playing up with the men in Skelleftea after a successful start to the campaign in junior. Draft eligible in 2014.
Daniel Audette, C – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Small in stature but hard to contain, Audette is on a roll in Sherbrooke, posting 14 points in nine games this month, moving himself into the top-15 of all ‘Q’ scorers. His Phoenix squad isn’t exactly rising right now, but if Audette and his mates can hang on to their playoff spot, anything can happen. Draft eligible in 2014.